Top Cat is an animated television series made by the Hanna-Barbera studios that first ran from September 27, 1961 to April 18, 1962 for a run of 30 episodes on the ABC network.
Originally broadcast on Wednesdays (8:30–9pm Eastern), Top Cat was co-sponsored by Kellogg's and Bristol-Myers (Bufferin). The central character, Top Cat (called T.C. by close friends, "pro-vid-ing it's with dignity" according to the lyrics of the theme song) is the leader of a gang of Manhattan alley cats living in Hoagy's Alley: Fancy-Fancy, Spook, Benny the Ball, Brain, and Choo Choo.
Top Cat and his gang were inspired by the East Side Kids, characters from a series of popular 1940s 'B' movies, but their more immediate roots lay in The Phil Silvers Show, a late-1950s military comedy whose lead character (Sergeant Bilko, played by Silvers) was a crafty con-man. Maurice Gosfield, who played Private Duane Doberman in The Phil Silvers Show, provided the voice for Benny the Ball in Top Cat, and Benny's rotund appearance was based on Gosfield's. Additionally, Arnold Stang's vocal characterisation of the lead character, the eponymous Top Cat, was based on an impression of Phil Silvers' voice.
Other influences include the movie Guys and Dolls, in which actor Stubby Kaye played a short, stout, streetwise gambler: a virtual Benny the Ball prototype. Lastly, an unlikely contender (as it also came from Hanna Barbera) was the character Hokey Wolf on The Huckleberry Hound Show, whose segment also paralleled The Phil Silvers Show.
A frequent plot-thread revolved around the local beat cop, Charles "Charlie" Dibble, and his ineffective attempts to evict the gang from the alley, due to their constantly attempting to earn a quick buck (usually by an illegal scam). Dibble's appearance was modeled on his voice actor, Allen Jenkins. The word dibble had previously meant only an implement for drilling holes in which to plant seeds, but now acquired a second meaning in the vernacular as slang for police officers.
Animation historian Christopher P. Lehman says that the series can be seen as social commentary. The cats may represent disenfranchised people confined to living in a poor environment. Top Cat's get-rich-quick schemes are efforts to escape to a better life. The gang faces a human police officer who frustrates their efforts and keeps them trapped in the alley. This enforcement of the social order by police ensures that the cats will not escape their current living conditions.
Boomerang run Edit
Top Cat was shown on Boomerang from the channel's launch on April 1, 2000 until August 4, 2013. During this time, various segments of the show were also featured on the Elements programming block.
The series was shown on Boomerang in other countries as well. To date, Boomerang Latin America is the only Boomerang in the world that still airs Top Cat, returning to that version's line-up in 2015 after originally being removed in April 2006.